How To Sleep With Intercostal Muscle Strain? Find Comfort And Relief

By Kendra Reed

Updated On

Intercostal muscle strain is a painful condition that affects the muscles between the ribs. It can cause sharp pain and discomfort, making everyday activities and even sleeping a challenge. In this blog post, we’ll explore the causes, symptoms, and effective strategies for managing intercostal muscle strain, with a focus on getting a good night’s sleep despite the pain.

Key Takeaways

  1. Intercostal muscle strain is caused by overuse, sudden movements, or poor posture, leading to pain and discomfort in the ribcage area.
  2. Common symptoms include sharp pain when breathing or moving, tenderness, and muscle stiffness.
  3. Sleeping with intercostal muscle strain can be improved by using supportive pillows, finding a comfortable position, and practicing relaxation techniques.

What is Intercostal Muscle Strain?

Intercostal muscles are the muscles located between the ribs, playing a crucial role in breathing and supporting the ribcage. An intercostal muscle strain occurs when these muscles are overstretched or torn due to overuse or sudden movements. This type of injury can cause sharp pain and discomfort in the chest wall, making it difficult to breathe, move, or even sleep comfortably.

Also Read: How To Relax Pelvic Floor Muscles? A Step-by-Step Guide

Causes of Intercostal Muscle Strain

Several factors can contribute to intercostal muscle strain, including:

  • Repetitive motions: Engaging in activities that involve repetitive twisting or reaching overhead can strain the intercostal muscles over time.
  • Sudden movements: Abrupt twisting, turning, or stretching can cause the intercostal muscles to tear or become overstretched.
  • Poor posture: Slouching or hunching over for extended periods can place unnecessary strain on the intercostal muscles.
  • Weak core muscles: A weak core can lead to poor posture and an increased risk of intercostal muscle strain.

Identifying and addressing the underlying cause of your intercostal muscle strain is essential for preventing future injuries and promoting healing.

Symptoms of Intercostal Muscle Strain

Common symptoms of intercostal muscle strain include:

  1. Sharp pain in the ribcage area, especially when breathing deeply, coughing, or sneezing.
  2. Tenderness or sensitivity when touching the affected area.
  3. Muscle stiffness or tightness in the chest wall.
  4. Pain that worsens with movement or activity.

If you experience persistent or severe symptoms, it’s important to seek medical advice to rule out more serious conditions and receive appropriate treatment.

How to Sleep with Intercostal Muscle Strain?

Getting a good night’s sleep with intercostal muscle strain can be challenging, but there are several strategies you can try to alleviate discomfort and promote restful sleep:

  • Use supportive pillows: Place a pillow under your arm or between your legs to support your ribcage and reduce strain on the intercostal muscles.
  • Sleep on your unaffected side: Lying on the side opposite to the strain can help minimize pressure and pain.
  • Apply heat or ice: Using a heating pad or ice pack before bed can help reduce muscle tension and alleviate pain.
  • Practice gentle stretches: Engaging in gentle stretching exercises before bed can help loosen tight muscles and promote relaxation.
  • Try relaxation techniques: Deep breathing exercises, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation can help reduce stress and promote better sleep.

Remember to avoid sleeping on your stomach or in positions that put unnecessary pressure on your ribcage, as this can exacerbate the pain and delay healing.

Pain Management and Treatment Options

In addition to sleep strategies, there are several pain management and treatment options for intercostal muscle strain:

  • Over-the-counter pain medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Rest and activity modification: Avoiding activities that aggravate the pain and allowing your body time to heal is crucial for recovery.
  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can guide you through exercises and stretches to help strengthen the intercostal muscles and improve flexibility.
  • Chiropractic care: Chiropractic adjustments may help alleviate pain and promote healing by realigning the spine and reducing pressure on the intercostal muscles.

Consult with a healthcare professional to determine the best treatment plan for your specific case, especially if your pain is severe or persists despite self-care measures.


Intercostal muscle strain can be a painful and disruptive condition, affecting daily activities and sleep quality. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and effective management strategies, you can take steps to alleviate discomfort and promote healing. Remember to prioritize rest, practice good sleep hygiene, and seek medical advice if your pain persists or worsens.

With proper care and treatment, most cases of intercostal muscle strain improve within a few weeks. By staying proactive and patient with your recovery, you can get back to enjoying restful nights and pain-free days.

Read More: Are Muscle Relaxers Addictive? What You Need To Know


Q: How long does intercostal muscle strain take to heal?

Most cases of intercostal muscle strain improve within a few weeks with proper rest and self-care measures.

Q: Can I exercise with intercostal muscle strain?

It’s best to avoid exercises that strain the affected muscles until the pain subsides. Consult with a healthcare professional or physical therapist for guidance on safe activities.

Q: Should I use heat or ice for intercostal muscle strain?

Both heat and ice can be beneficial. Ice can help reduce inflammation in the acute stage, while heat can help relax tight muscles and promote healing in the later stages.

Q: When should I see a doctor for intercostal muscle strain?

If your pain is severe, persists for more than a few weeks, or is accompanied by other symptoms like difficulty breathing, seek medical attention.



Kendra Reed

Dr. Kendra Reed is a dedicated general medicine physician with 7 years of clinical experience. After graduating from medical school, she completed her residency in internal medicine, developing a well-rounded skillset in diagnosing and treating a diverse range of conditions. Patients appreciate Dr. Reed's warm bedside manner and commitment to providing comprehensive, personalized care. In addition to her clinical work, she is actively involved in community outreach programs, educating the public on important health topics. Dr. Reed is known for her ability to establish trusting relationships with her patients and help them achieve their wellness goals.

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